In an effort to raise the spirits as well as the decibel levels in the impressive Mercedes Benz Arena, VfB Stuttgart and Bayern Munich entered the fray to the sound of heavy metal legends AC/DC. A sell-out crowd of 60,441 braved the wintery conditions and treacherous roads to see if Stuttgart could avoid slipping to an eighth straight defeat against their Bavarian rivals in a Southern Derby.
The Aussie anthem 'Thunderstruck' blared out from the sound system but it felt more like ice than thunder on a freezing winter's evening in the capital of Baden-Württemberg. A tepid first-half performance from the record German champions did little to warm the travelling contingent and it was the home side who arguably carved out the best chances.
27 minutes in and the Japanese international Shinji Okazaki fizzed an effort just past Manuel Neuer's post after an incisive counter-attack. Austrian Martin Harnik headed against the post from a tight angle and Okazaki was unable to connect with the rebound from close range as Stuttgart sought to upset the odds.
Bayern came out with more resolve after a half-time rollicking from coach Jupp Heynckes. ''In the first half, we just lacked a little flair, determination and urgency. We failed to get the final ball, the cross or the shot at goal away. I complained about that at half time. We were much better in the second period." However, Bayern had to rely on some shocking defending to set them on the path to victory five minutes after the break.
Italian Cristian Molinaro's sloppy, blind backpass was intercepted by Bayern's top scorer Mario Mandzukic, who cooly rounded Sven Ulreich and easily slotted home for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season. "My mistake was obviously decisive," a rueful Molinaro said after the match. "I just didn't see Mandzukic." The home side visibly wilted and were never a concern for Bayern after Molinaro's moment of madness. It was seemingly a case of damage limitation for Bruno Labbadia's charges from this juncture onwards.
Toni Kroos went down in a heap in the box on the hour mark after a clumsy challenge from VfB's Munich-born defender Georg Niedermeier. Referee Florian Meyer turned down penalty appeals and booked Kroos for dissent as Bayern sought a second. Mandzukic turned provider in the 72nd minute as the Reds finally found that coveted, second goal.
The Croatian, who had worked the channels well all game, crossed from the right for Thomas Müller to divert the ball past a helpless Ulreich. Stuttgart's misery was compounded when Harnik was sent off in the 80th minute after picking up a second yellow for hacking down Franck Ribery. The loudest howls of derision from the home fans were reserved for former VfB striker Mario Gomez who came on as a substitute in the final few minutes.
Bayern stretched their lead at the top of the table to a mammoth eleven points over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who could only manage a goalless draw at Freiburg on Saturday.
VfB Stuttgart: Ulreich - Rüdiger, Tasci, Niedermeier, Molinaro - Kvist, Gentner - Harnik, Okazaki (64' Holzhauser), Traoré (64' Torun) - Ibisevic
Bayern Munich: Neuer - Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martínez, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos, Ribéry (88' Shaqiri) - Mandzukic (89' Gomez)
Goals: 0-1 Mandzukic (50'), 0-2 Müller (72')
Red Cards: Harnik (80' second bookable offence)
Attendance: 60,441 (capacity)
Referee: Florian Meyer